It’s 2014, and social networking is growing with no end in sight. Here’s the “Trinity” of social networking as I see it: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Every day, millions (maybe billions) of users take the opportunity to share thoughts, pictures, videos, and other expressions through these networks. Users also have the opportunity to like, favorite, retweet, share, and double tap to express interest in it all. What I wonder is if those liked, retweeted, favorited, and shared notifications are some type of new-aged validation we’re after. All too often, that seems to be the case.
It’s not enough to say that social networks should not substitute in-person social lives (though that often seems to need repeating.) No, now a desire for validation often seems to come into play as well. On multiple occasions, I have heard the following: “I didn’t get too many likes on that, I’m taking it down.” “Only three retweets, so I don’t know if it made sense.” “I want her/him to notice me when I post.”
These are just a few examples of some funny, yet saddening, comments from users who sound less than enthused about the responses that they got (or did not get) online. Is this insecurity? Something else? Whatever it is, is the desire to be affirmed on what we post the reason some of us second-guess ourselves this way?
In face-to-face dialogue, we don’t get the chance to “delete” statements. Once you’ve said it, you’ve said it. You also usually meant it. The opportunity to clarify it is an option, but the response from others will be real (hopefully). Of course, one could argue that we can judge that response to change how we communicate in person, too. Considering all of this, it seems less than genuine to pick apart your profile in order to satisfy an audience.
But instead of working towards self-images created through profiles, pages we open should reflect our personalities as genuinely as possible. When you curate your profiles to gain recognition, think about what you’re telling yourself. Forget about the friends and followers for a while. Are you judging your own online expression through the feedback of other people? Think about your connection to them. Are you trying to show them what they want to see, or show them who you really are? They signed up to connect, not browse a virtual museum of carefully crafted status updates or tweets.
Feedback and response are, of course, very important in our interactions with people. Unfortunately, it seems that users are quantifying response and reading into it as a qualitative assessment on their personalities.
The main question I’m asking in all this is simple: who are you? Where are you from, what are your interests, opinions, thoughts, and how are you doing? Think about it… those are questions that compose an online profile. True answers to those questions should be what you share. Show people who you are and tell them what you really think. Don’t work towards an image that satisfies your desire for recognition. It’s not you, and so it’s not real. The only “filter” that will truly get noticed is called your personality. That’s a filter you develop over a lifetime, not one that comes in the next Instagram update.
I’m not saying to never delete a status or tweet. Sometimes something sounds weird, wrong, or is actually just not what you want to share. A profile or account definitely requires some upkeep, and shedding some photos or content is part of that. I’m also not saying that you shouldn’t think through what you post, because that’s part of the process of doing any one thing… thinking.
Be yourself online, so that you can share your experiences with others. Your online profile won’t ever replicate you to the 100th percent. It’s not an extension, but an expression. I love (yes, love) likes, favorites, retweets, and shares. It is nice to see that people are interested in some of what I share, and that is an extension of the sharing we do in person. Have I caught myself fixing up my own social networks to play to an audience? Definitely. It’s something I’ve left behind, though. These days, I’d rather live and let “like”.